Music and Fun at Woodhall Spa’s 40s Festival 2017

Last Sunday, July 16th, we headed into rural Lincolnshire to the village of Woodhall Spa, considered to be one of Lincolnshire’s most attractive villages. It has an Edwardian character and is set in lovely pine woods. From our Nottinghamshire village on the Notts-Lincs border, we had a drive of 27 miles. I won’t go into the history of Woodhall Spa on this occasion, but yes, it was a spa town in the past. Its history during WW2 is also interesting. Like so many places in ‘flat’ Lincolnshire on the eastern side of the country, it was once an RAF base. (The pine woods were of utmost importance for concealing aircraft and ammunition supplies and such like).

Map of Lincolnshire to show location of Woodhall Spa. Base map from Wikimedia Commons, Author Nilfanion. Creative Commons

Woodhall Spa’s 40’s Festival is a free event – meaning there are no entry fees –  run entirely by volunteers and held over both days of the weekend: July 15 and 16 this year. It aims to spotlight ‘Life on the British Home Front’ i.e. Britain during WW2 – and it delivers on every count. This was the festival’s 6th year and its popularity has grown so much it has become one of Lincolnshire’s most popular attractions. 2016 saw 40,000 visitors over the weekend and this year it rose to 45, 000.

A wide variety of events take place at various areas of the village. A number of living history groups /re-enactors are involved and there are outdoor concerts and live music. Vera Lynn songs blasted out from one area, Glenn Miller music, and Scottish pipers from others. People danced and got into the spirit of the occasion whilst others watched and clapped:

Food and drink stalls were everywhere, including a few ice-cream vans. Of course, I just had to have a nice big cone! (What else are days out for, when all’s said and done?)

There were several little cafés, as well as pubs and hotels offering meals to suit all tastes. And before I plough on, I have to say that dressing in 40’s costume is encouraged. Next year, we may well do what the organisers suggest and take ourselves off to a charity shop, or suchlike, and grab some 40s gear! This smiling young lady looked lovely in her ‘get up’:

One of the first things to watch was the parade, primarily (re-enactors) of 1940s servicemen, as well as military vehicles from a variety of living history groups.

Along the village streets were so many vintage cars, motorbikes and military vehicles, I had a hard job moving (husband) Nick along to look at other attractions!  He was totally besotted with the old motorbikes in particular. These are a photos of just a few of  the  many vehicles:

Visitors in 1940s dress really made the day. They brought the whole 40s theme to life. Here are some photos of a few of the many people we passed on our walk about. Re-enactors mingled with the crowds, so  it wasn’t easy to differentiate between the two!

And this was a regular sight up and down the main street. One way of getting around to the various  parts of the village:

And to add to the authenticity of the event was the fly-past of Spitfires and Hurricanes from RAF Coningsby, less than 5 miles from Woodhall Spa, and home to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Nick assures me the Hurricanes are the ones with more rounded-tipped wings, so I’ll take his word on that. It was overcast and grey as they flew over, as the photos show:

I later learned that a Lancaster bomber also flew over. We left about 3 pm, having been there since 10 am, and the Lancaster obviously graced the skies later than that. I was disappointed to know we missed it, but, when all’s said and done, I’ve seen Lancasters flying over this area before, so I shouldn’t moan. We’d had a lovely day out and, other than a few spits of rain in the morning, the day was fine. Still, some sunshine would have been nice…

Oh. look. Doctor Who just arrived in his/her Tardis! (i.e. 1940s police phone box):

42 thoughts on “Music and Fun at Woodhall Spa’s 40s Festival 2017

  1. Hello, Millie! I managed to log in from my smartphone. This is a magnificent post. Will get back to it when my computer is in good shape again.

    1. Thank you for reading from your phone, Irina – and for your lovely comment. Sorry to hear you’re having computer problems again and I hope whatever’s wrong with it is sorted out before long. I’m pleased to know you you liked my post. It was a good event.

  2. Considering its run by volunteers, we need to appreciate the level of efforts required for this event. Excellent show.
    How do they manage to get so many old vehicles?
    There are very few young people. Is that a reflection of the aging population of the village?

    1. Thanks, Arv. It was a great show and everyone enjoyed themselves. There were young people there, too, but my photos tend to be of people in costumes that stood out the most. Most of those seemed to be on older people. Not everyone taking part came from the village. Visitors in 40s dress came from all over the country, as did the military reenactment groups. As for the vintage vehicles, they are all privately owned – and they probably cost rather a lot! But people who attend these events in costume are prepared to splash out. The military vehicles are generally owned by people in the reenactment groups.

    1. It was excellent, Peggy, and so well done. The volunteers must be very dedicated. I forgot to say in my post that a lot of the servicemen around were ‘American’ (in US uniforms, that is). That’s just how it would have been by the middle of WW2. We’ll definitely be going again next year.

  3. Millie, you easily could have broken this into a month’s worth of posts, my dear! My ancestry goes back on my Dad’s side of the family with 50% English, 50% Scottish. I am always fascinated by such realism and remembrance of the courage in this period of time. We may have had in-fighting but overall, we seemed to pull together.
    Lovely people in authentic dress, which really demonstrated such fun in the revelry and dancing. 😊 💐

    1. I know… Lol. I always make a meal of posts like this. I have dozens of travel and history posts to be written up and I’d never get though them all if I made them into more than one post each. 😀 All wars are terrible things but, as you say, the positive side is the way they make people pull together. This festival certainly aimed to celebrate courage and resilience at such an awful time.
      As for ancestry, many of us are a mixture of all sorts! I’m a mix of English, Irish and Welsh but no Scottish as far as I know. Oddly enough, two of my children bought me a ‘Trace Your Ancestry’ kit for my last birthday, and I really need to get it done and sent off. Who knows what it will reveal?
      Thank you for that lovely long comment Robini. I’ll be hopping over to your blog sometime over the next day or two.

    1. Thanks Ali. 🙂 We had no idea what we’d find at this festival as we’d never been before, but we were more than pleasantly surprised at how good it was. I’ve never seen so many fabulous vintage cars, as well as military vehicles, all in one place.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, milliethom. My dad was stationed in Great Britain during WWII. His B26 bomber named “The Defeater” and his squadron were ten minutes ahead of the initial invasion fleet on D-Day dropping their payload on German positions at Normandy. He had wonderful memories of his time in Great Britain (the war excluded). Your post pictures brought back a lot of those memories of his stories for me especially the planes, vehicles, music, and the courage and warmth of the English people. This is a festival I would have loved to attended. Plus, can’t go wrong with Scottish pipers and Glenn Miller music! 🙂

    1. Hi Jack. I remember you talked about your dad and his military life on your very first blog post. I read it when you did a re-blog on your first anniversary. You have every right to be proud of him and treasure the stories he told you. He played such an important part on D-Day. I’m also happy to know he liked Britain – war excluded, as you say. As an airman, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d been stationed in Lincolnshire. It’s where so many of Britain’s air bases were. There were a lot of American servicemen about at this festival (or rather, reanactors taking the role). It gave a really authentic feel to the day. As I said to Peggy, that’s exactly how it would have been during the war. So many US servicemen were stationed here and like the Brits, they just got on with what they had to do to. Yes, I love bagpipes and could listen to them all day. Glenn Miller music always makes me want to dance – but it makes me sad, too. The way he died was just tragic. I’m sure you would have loved this festival, too, Jack. I’m going to get all dressed up in 40’s gear next year and grandson Kieran (who is almost 18 now) wants to come with us. He loves history so I know he’ll love it. Thank you for that great comment and the reminder about your dad.

    1. Thanks Suzanne. The festival was a lot of lighthearted fun and there was plenty to see and do. Lots of places to eat and, after a few raindrops in the morning, the weather behaved itself for a change! The 40s music also made it seem very real, too. 🙂

  5. The photos look like the 1940s except they’re in wonderful color…love this…the clothes, the cars, the planes…what a fabulous celebration…thanks for taking us along.

    1. The clothes were very colourful, Jeanne, and perhaps more in keeping with the modern look. I’m not sure that everyone in the 40s wore grey, brown and black all the time, although it seems that way when we look at old b/w photos. Even in films set in the 40s and 50s the clothing tends to be quite subdued. Perhaps it was just that the people who visited Woodhall Spa were determined to have a fun day out. It was a great celebration, Jeanne, and I’m very happy you popped over to read my post. 😀

  6. Wow – I love the 1940s clothes. That must have been fun to see people dancing in the street like that too. Thank you for taking us back in time with you!

    1. Thanks Sheila! It was a great event and one that we’ll be making a yearly outing from now on. I can still remember clothes and cars like these in post-war Britain (I’m one of the baby-boomers, you see). It brought back lots of memories of my childhood. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Ann. Yes, we love our traditions in the UK and there are celebrations for one event or another throughout most of the year. There are so many held in the summer, it’s hard to pick which ones to go to!

  7. Great fun! And great photos/commentary. We went to a similar event not long ago – possibly not as big as this one and it included several members of the Wermacht, which some found slightly disturbing. Loved the clothes and the music – though I have to say that most of the ‘troops’ looked well beyond call-up age…is it just old chaps who like to dress up? I remember Woodhall Spa being the home of 617 Squadron.

    1. Thanks Mike. Sorry for the late reply but I’ve just got home after being in North Wales since Monday. I’ll try to visit some posts I’ve missed over the next few days.
      Yes, many of those in period dress at Woodhall Spa were getting on in life – probably ‘boomers’ like me who, perhaps, remember the late forties and into the fifties. There were younger people though, some of them with their kiddies also in costume. Many of the old chaps you mention were attached to military re-enactment groups – and, as servicemen, were definitely past call-up age! But hey did enjoy the dancing!
      Woodhall Spa was the home of 617 Squadron. There were air bases all over Lincolnshire, as you know. I was sorry to miss the Lancaster fly-past, but we were unable to stay too late on that day.
      I can understand what you said about the sense of discomfort felt by some folks at the presence of Wermacht at the event you attended. Old memories and all that… Understandable, but it’s a shame to have the day spoilt.

  8. I want to go *stamps feet* 😉 You brought history to us in this post and for that I thank you! Even Doctor Who showed up ~ And I’m thinking the re-enactors probably had as much fun as the crowd 🙂

  9. I have been scrutinising every photo, looking for our friends Ray and Wendy from Blakeney. They went there and although I couldn’t see them on your lovely shots, I sense they were just around the corner. 😉

    1. What a coincidence that your friends visited this festival, Dina – and what a shame they aren’t on the photos here. I have dozens more photos, though, so they may well be on one of those. It was a really great day out, and if you’re in that area next year, it would be worth a visit. It really did seem like being back in the 40s. 🙂

  10. Hi again dear Millie!This is also a gorgeous post,I’ve just finished reading your August one,which I so much enjoyed.
    PS:I am so glad too,as a couple of minutes ago I bought from Amazon your : Pit of Vipers (Sons of Kings) book 🙂 I so much like your writing style,my friend!All the best to you,

    1. It was a very happy day out at Woodhall Spa, Doda, and next year we intend to go ‘in costume’!
      Thank you for those kind words about my writing. If you’ve already read Shadow of the Raven, Pit of Vipers will mean more to you than to anyone reading it as a ‘stand alone’. I can only hope you enjoy it. Thank you so much for buying it! ❤

      1. My pleasure dear Millie!In costume?Sounds really exciting!Thank you for the wonderful historic trip,your Shadow of the Raven is such a remarkable book and I am certain sure that Pit of Vipers will be equally captivating!

      2. Thank you again!
        Yes, at the 1940s festival, visitors were encouraged to attend in suitable 1940’s fashion. As we’d never been before,we didn’t know that. There were many like us, of course, but those in 40s gear seemed to have so much fun! 🙂

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